Ah, the good old days, when you could depend on galleries to sell your art! You’ve probably noticed by now that things have changed. The gallery model is gradually disappearing, and even galleries are saying to artists, “We'll take a lower commission if you promote your own show.”
So what’s changed?
Remember the financial crisis of 2007–2008? Galleries fell on hard times because people didn’t have the money to spend on art.
These days, people are shopping for art again, but why are galleries still struggling? Because consumers shop differently now. They’re less likely to walk into a gallery and shop in person, and much more likely to shop online.
People are purchasing everything online—from toothpaste to expensive cars and homes.
In this new reality, galleries and independent artists are struggling to figure out how to reach buyers.
Brick and mortar businesses like galleries aren’t necessarily experts at online marketing. You can't count on them to bridge the gap between pre-2007 consumer behavior and the way things work today.
What does this mean for artists?
This means that there’s no silver bullet when it comes to selling your work. You can’t simply approach all your local galleries that sell original work and end up with several galleries representing you, for example.
I’m not saying that you shouldn’t include gallery representation in your plans. But you need a strategy that includes several marketing tactics, including online marketing.
In other words, you can’t put all your eggs in one basket. You can’t count on any one marketing tactic, whether it's selling your work in local galleries, or getting that one big news story, or finding a wealthy patron to support you. You need a diverse strategy that includes a range of approaches that work for you.
The one big reason you’re not selling more art is that you haven’t yet taken marketing into your own hands. It’s time to take control of your own art business.
What do you need to do?
As a small business owner, you need to get in the driver’s seat of your art marketing, because the usual channels aren’t working the way they used to.
Case in point—some galleries are enlisting the help of artists to bring buyers in.
So, when you walk into a gallery, you need to be the one who is smart about marketing in today’s climate. Be the artist who’s successful at self-promotion. Talk to them about how they reach new patrons. Make suggestions. Best case scenario? You can offer to reach out to your own following to help promote the show—if you have a following.
But what if you don’t know anything about marketing? You probably didn’t learn marketing in art school, you’ve never had to do it before, and it’s just not something you even want to think about. Besides, marketing feels kind of “icky,” and really, you just want to create.
The thought of acting as your own marketing director might make you want to hide under the covers. But it’s even more risky to put your business success into someone else’s hands. That’s not how successful artists operate these days. If you’re not promoting your work, no one is.
Photo by Alexandra Gorn on Unsplash
How do you know what to do so that you don't end up spinning your wheels, spending a ton of time and energy on marketing, and having nothing to show for it in the end?
How can you market your art business without that uncomfortable, icky feeling? In a few words: be authentic, know who you’re talking to, and create a plan. Don’t worry—I’m not going to leave you hanging.
I’ll have more on how to market your own artwork next week. Until then, this might help.
Do you have a story to tell about the changing art industry? Tell me in the comments below.